ONE of the main allegations against one of the detainees being held at the US military detention centre in Guantanamo Bay is that he had in his possession a watch of the kind used by alleged Al Qaeda operatives to detonate explosives.

Declassified dossiers of around 60 prisoners held at Guantanamo Bay along with other declassified documents obtained through a US court order by the Associated Press news agency using Freedom of Information laws in the US, and available now on the internet, show that 29-year-old Kuwaiti national Abdullah Kamel Al Kandari, detained at Camp Delta, who worked for eight years in a Kuwaiti ministry as an electrical engineer, was repeatedly questioned by a US military tribunal regarding his possession of a digital Casio watch (which allowed the wearer to know the direction of Makkah).

He agreed to cooperate with a US military tribunal set up to review his ‘enemy combatant’ status. The allegations against Mr Kandari were that 1) he was a member of Al Qaeda; 2) that he had travelled to Afghanistan, via Iran, after Sept. 11, 2001, with approximately $15,000 dollars; 3) that he was captured with a Casio watch, model F-91 W, “a common watch used by Al Qaeda to detonate improvised explosive devices” and 4) that one of his known aliases was on a list of captured hard drives associated with a senior Al Qaeda member.

During his hearing, Mr Kandari acknowledged travelling to the area of the Pakistan-Afghanistan border. He said his purpose was to deliver humanitarian aid for which purpose he had taken $15,000 with him. He said he kept $2,000 out of this amount for his return journey to Kuwait. He denied being associated with either Al Qaeda or the Taliban.

During the hearing it also transpired that the US authorities seemed to regard possession of his watch as proof that he was a member of Al Qaeda.

He was asked several questions regarding the watch and told the tribunal that the model in question was popular in Kuwait because it had a feature that helped the wearer know in which direction Makkah was and that helped in performing prayers.

The tribunal asked Mr Kandari if he had ever modified his watch to which he replied that the only thing he ever did to the watch was to replace its battery when it had run out.

The reference to one of Mr Kandari’s aliases showing up on a hard drive said to be in the possession of a “senior Al Qaeda member” does not appear in the unclassified portion of his dossier.

According to this portion, Mr Kandari had several aliases but the ones that were on the hard drive were not mentioned in the unclassified part of the dossier. According to the transcript of his questioning by the tribunal, Mr Kandari told the tribunal that his name was a very common one in Kuwait.

He also told the tribunal that he wanted to go to the Pakistan-Afghanistan border because he had read in the press that following the American attack on Afghanistan millions of refugees were trying to leave the country.

He told the tribunal that he had read reports that suggested that the refugees were not being allowed to cross and that he wanted to help them. He said his journey to Afghanistan via Iran went smoothly and he had a letter, written in Pashtu, explaining his goal.

The way back, he told the tribunal, was a disaster, not least because he was not allowed to cross back into Iran from Afghanistan. He said all Arabs were being stopped at the border and that after the fall of the Taliban, things became very dangerous for foreigners in Afghanistan, many of whom were seen as being associated with the Taliban and Al Qaeda.

He said he then opted to go to Pakistan, where he managed to cross the border but was then arrested.

He said he was told he would be provided access to consular officials but was handed over to US authorities instead.

Updated Mar 08, 2006 12:00am

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